How to Grow a Plant Without Sunlight

Hydroponics is a burgeoning industry, for both commercial and home gardeners alike.
Hydroponics is a burgeoning industry, for both commercial and home gardeners alike. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Growing plants without sunlight is possible even for those who do not feel they have a green thumb. Hydroponics -- the technique of growing plants without soil -- also requires special "grow lights" to replace sunlight, as most hydroponic gardens are grown inside a building, basement or warehouse. Although this type of gardening requires more work and expense at the beginning to obtain the special lighting equipment, the benefits of an indoor garden can eventually overcome the potential downsides.

Things You'll Need

  • "Grow box," such as a shallow aquarium or a plastic tub
  • Drill
  • Plastic plug, such as for bathtub or pool
  • Plastic or wire mesh tray
  • Stabilizing material, such as vermiculite, marbles, pea gravel or pebbles
  • Plants
  • Nutrient solution
  • Water
  • Grow light of choice (metal halide, fluorescent, high-pressure Sodium, LED or incandescent)

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Prepare the grow box by drilling a small hole in one end for drainage, approximately 1 inch to 2 inch in diameter (or wide enough to support the drain plug), approximately 4 inches from the bottom of the container.

Set the aquarium air bubbler into the container on the bottom to circulate oxygen to the plant roots. These can be purchased from a hydroponics supplier or made at home with the proper materials.

Attach the mesh tray to the top of the grow box, securing it at the upper edge. There should be a gap of only several inches between the bottom of the grow box and the mesh tray. This space will hold water and nutrient solution for the plants. Trays can be purchased from a hydroponics supplier or rigged at home with wire mesh or plastic gardening trays.

Pour 2 inches of the chosen stabilizing material into the mesh tray, spreading it evenly with your hand. This material holds the plant in place as the roots grow down toward the nutrient solution and water at the bottom of the grow box.

Add the liquid nutrient and water to the bottom of the container, making sure that it is touching the bottom of the mesh tray.

Place plants in the stabilizing material. The bottom of the plant should be able to extend through the mesh for roots to reach the liquid nutrient. Water plants at the top, allowing the water to drain into the solution. Do not overwater.

Position the grow box in a permanent spot. Place the chosen grow light over the box, securing it so it will not fall but can be easily removed if necessary.


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